This particular mudra is also known as the Earth-Touching or Earth-Witness Mudra
Following on from last week's Mudra Monday this is another important mudra from the Buddhist tradition. In fact, Buddha is thought to have reached enlightenment while using Bhumisparsha mudra.
As the legend goes, one day, while sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree, Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) sensed that a breakthrough was near and vowed not to arise until he was enlightened. The Evil One, realising that his antagonists success was imminent, rushed in to disrupt his concentration.
First, he came in the form of Kama, the God of Desire, and paraded three voluptuous women in front of Siddhartha. When the Buddha-to-be remained unmoved, he changed his guise to that of Mara, the Lord of Death and began sending hurricanes, torrential rains and showers of flaming rocks his way. Gautama however, had emptied himself so completely of his finite Self that these weapons found no target to strike and turned into flower petals as they entered his field of concentration. In desperation, Mara challenged Gautama's right to do what he was doing. In response, Gautama touched the Earth with his right fingertip (i.e. Bhumisparsha mudra), whereupon the Earth responded, "I bear you witness," with a hundred thousand thunderous roars, causing Mara's army to flee. The Gods of heaven then descended to tend to the victor with garlands and perfumes.
After this, Gautama's meditation steadily deepened. First, he saw, one by one, his many thousands of previous lifetimes. As his vision widened he surveyed the death and rebirth of the whole universe of living beings, noting the law of karma i.e. that good actions lead to happy rebirths, bad actions to miserable ones. This lead him to the realise what made everything tick: the universal law of causal interdependence, or as he called it, dependent arising. This was to become the very heart of Buddha's message. Armed with this insight, he quickly shed the last layers of ignorant clinging that bound him to the wheel of birth and death and thus, the Great Awakening had occurred. Freedom was his and he emerged as the Buddha.
As this mudra is symbolic of such an important moment in the life of Buddha, it allows us to feel more connected to him and his teachings. It enables us to follow in the path that he has paved for us as we become part of the Wheel of Dharma that he set in motion through his teachings. As we reach down and connect to the Earth, our mind is settled through a sense of grounding, which in turn promotes a state of deep relaxation and a calm mind, preparing us for a focused meditation practice.
To perform this mudra, sit comfortably, reaching the crown of the head towards the ceiling, whilst equally rooting down into the ground through the sitting bones. Place your left hand in your lap with the palm facing up. Bring your right hand over your right leg so that the finger tips touch the Earth. Meditate in this position for up to 30 minutes.
Illustration © estudio mosa 2018